Florida is back on track

sports@macon.comOctober 24, 2012 

Give the Florida Gators credit. It would have been very easy for the Florida football program to take the same road as Tennessee. But after a couple of years of mediocrity, you have to wonder if the Gators are back.

Back like once again being in the conversation as one of the best programs in college football.

They are undefeated heading into Saturday’s game against Georgia. This must be a nightmare for the Bulldogs, who can’t seem to catch a break in the quest to beat the Gators two years in a row.

Yes, it helped Georgia for Florida to blow South Carolina. But the Bulldogs still have to do something they haven’t done much of for it to matter: beat Florida.

Many wondered what the Gators would become after Urban Meyer left a few years ago. He won two national championships in six years. They had one of the best players to ever play the sport. And then the past two years, you would have thought Galen Hall was back coaching the blue and orange.

The Gators looked ordinary. The 15-11 overall record in 2010 and 2011 was mediocre compared to the level of success the program achieved from 1990 through 2009. The Gators had 202 wins and 52 losses in that 20-year span.

There was a bump in the road. Florida lost five games in three straight seasons. But it happened after Steve Spurrier left for the NFL. When Ron Zook couldn’t keep the standard at a high level, the Gators found Meyer, who did even better than Spurrier.

And now Meyer’s replacement is showing that he can carry the torch, as well. Will Muschamp was viewed as a spoiled brat who pitched a fit on the sidelines when he didn’t get his way. He looked like a first-year head coach last year, as he struggled to find his way after being the “hot” assistant in college football under Mack Brown at Texas.

But Muschamp made tough decisions on players who needed to be sent packing, and he was fortunate that Kansas was dumb enough to hire Charlie Weis as its head coach. That allowed Muschamp to find Brent Pease, who is a good fit as the offensive coordinator.

Now, Muschamp looks like a passionate coach who is leading a talented team.

Florida has two signature wins this season -- against LSU a couple of weeks ago and Saturday against South Carolina. Next up is Georgia, which will try to get in the way of what has become a perfect season.

The Bulldogs have won only four of the past 22 games against the Gators. That dates back to when Spurrier took over as head coach. It has been the big Achilles’ heel for every coach who has been on the Georgia sideline -- Ray Goff, Jim Donnan and Mark Richt.

Georgia hasn’t beaten Florida in consecutive seasons since winning three straight from 1987 through 1989. Again, that was just before Spurrier took over. The Bulldogs won 15 of the 20 games played before 1990.

It’s a shame Georgia couldn’t take advantage of Florida’s struggles the past few years. But instead of building on its No. 2 finish in 2007, Georgia has not taken that next step. Now after falling back, Florida is back on top, and again the Bulldogs are trying to catch them.

Perhaps that will change if Georgia can give Florida its first loss of the season. That will not only spoil Florida’s dream of a national title but would get Georgia back in the driver’s seat to play in Atlanta for the SEC title.

But this will be a big game, and we know the past few years that Georgia hasn’t showed up for big games. In fact, the Bulldogs have choked.

And after what Georgia did last week, struggling to beat Kentucky, how do we know which team will show up to face the Gators? If they play anything like they have played the past two games, the Bulldogs will be in trouble and Richt’s seat will get even hotter.

Sure, Georgia won last season, but Florida was not very good.

This is a different Gators team than what we saw last year in Jacksonville. The Gators proved that Saturday with the blowout win over the Gamecocks. Florida is back, and that’s going to make it very tough to beat.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on Twitter@yahoo.com.

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